WASHINGTON (AP) — They promised you a rose garden, from the Rose Garden.
This past week, President Donald Trump and Republicans legislators celebrated passage of a House bill seeking to replace the Affordable Care Act. At a White House event, they heaped praise on their effort and brushed off worries that health coverage could be imperiled for many people if the Senate is persuaded to go along with the legislation.
There were other bold claims coming from the Rose Garden, too, about the budget deal that keeps the government running through September, as well as questionable statements by Trump on other fronts.
KEVIN McCARTHY, House majority leader: “We’re going to unshackle, build an economy, let people have greater choice in their health care and protect pre-existing conditions.” — Rose Garden celebration Thursday, marking passage of the House bill
STEVE SCALISE, House majority whip: “There are so many things, multiple, multiple layers in our bill that we passed today that not only protect people with pre-existing conditions, but actually focus real targeted money on lowering premiums for families with pre-existing conditions.” — Rose Garden event
TRUMP, on pre-existing conditions: “We cover it beautifully…. And I mandate it. I said, `Has to be.”‘ — CBS interview April 30
THE FACTS: The history of high-risk pools and broad expert opinion call all of this optimism into doubt.
In certain circumstances, people with an existing illness would face the prospect of dramatically higher premiums than other people pay, despite protections in the bill and the addition of $8 billion over five years to help states cover those with high medical costs.
People with medical conditions may need this help if they have a lapse in coverage. Under the Republican bill, states could get waivers that allow insurers to charge higher premiums to those customers, but only if they have a gap in coverage and if the state has a mechanism such as a high-risk pool to support them. Robert Graboyes, a senior research fellow at the conservative Mercatus Center, called the $8 billion “a pittance.”
Lapses in coverage could become more common if the Republican bill delivers less financial support than President Barack Obama’s law does for people buying individual insurance coverage.
“Many people with pre-existing conditions will have a hard time maintaining coverage because it just won’t be affordable,” said Larry Levitt, a health insurance expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In the more than 30 states that had high-risk pools before Obama’s health care law took full effect in 2011, net losses piled up to more than $1.2 billion, with losses averaging $5,500 per person enrolled.
McCARTHY: “If you simply look at the facts, more people took the penalty or the exemption than actually signed up for Obamacare.” — Rose Garden event with legislators
THE FACTS: That’s a fair comparison, if not the full picture. It leaves out Medicaid expansion.
The law expanded coverage primarily by giving millions more people Medicaid, setting up the subsidized markets for individual coverage and letting adult children stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26. Altogether, those measures cover more people than the number who claimed exemptions from the mandate to obtain health insurance or who paid a penalty for lacking insurance.
But McCarthy, R-Calif., is right when comparing the roughly 12 million enrollees in the individual market with the 19.5 million who did not sign up for the coverage because they couldn’t afford it or didn’t want it.
Last year, nearly 13 million people claimed exemptions from the mandate to obtain health insurance, citing financial hardship or other reasons, and 6.5 million paid the penalty for lacking insurance (averaging $470) rather than choose a market place.
Counting both the subsidized market and the Medicaid expansion, Obama’s law provides coverage for some 20 million people.
The Republican bill that passed the House would end the extra federal payments 31 states are accepting to expand Medicaid to more people. It would also replace Obama’s federal subsidies for lower-income insurance buyers with age-based tax credits.
TRUMP, accusing the Obama administration on Thursday of having banned patients at a military hospital from receiving religious items from visitors: “The abuses were all over. As just one example, people were forbidden from giving or receiving religious items at a military hospital where our brave service members were being treated, and when they wanted those religious items.” — Rose Garden event with religious leaders Thursday
THE FACTS: That’s not quite what happened at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the hospital in question. A poorly worded policy in 2011 indeed appeared to ban Bibles and other religious items from being handed out or used during visits, but hospital officials say that was not the intent and it was never enforced. The aim was to stop visiting benevolent groups from proselytizing to patients, after complaints arose that wounded service members were being harassed by some of them.
The policy was clarified after about four months. Then and now, Walter Reed has chaplains, worship services and in-house religious texts from multiple faiths for patients, who can also accept religious material from their visitors.
TRUMP, claiming the budget deal with Congress gives him money for his promised Mexico border wall: “We’re putting up a lot of new walls in certain areas. We’re putting up a tremendous amount of money to fix the existing structures that we have, some of which we can keep into the future. They’re in good shape, but we have to bring them back to the highest level. We’ll be doing that with this payment.” — Rose Garden football-trophy celebration with U.S. Air Force Academy, Tuesday
THE FACTS: The deal to keep the government running through September doesn’t have money to build any new fencing or walls along the roughly 2,000-mile (3,218-kilometer) border with Mexico. The deal does provide $772 million for border security, money that can be used for repairs to existing fencing or vehicle barriers that spread across just over 650 miles (1,046 kilometers) in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Most of the existing fencing and barriers were built under the Bush administration as part of the 2006 Secure Fence Act, though some of the construction was completed by the Obama administration.
BUDGET DIRECTOR MICK MULVANEY, gesturing to photos that show new steel fencing replacing a chain-link fence along a stretch of border in New Mexico just outside El Paso, Texas: “There is money in this deal to build several hundreds of millions of dollars of this, to replace this. … “That’s what we got in this deal and that’s what the Democrats don’t want you to know. This stuff is going up now.” — briefing Tuesday
THE FACTS: Steel fencing is going up in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector. But that project was approved and started by the Obama administration. In fact, it’s replacing fencing that predates the 2006 law that mandated the construction of hundreds of miles of new fencing along the border.
MULVANEY: “You can talk to the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) about the details, but there’s been a dramatic reduction in attacks on our Border Patrol agents where they can see through the wall, because nobody’s throwing anything over the top at them.” — briefing Tuesday
THE FACTS: Attacks on border agents are up, not down. Most of the fencing already at the border — more than 650 miles worth — is see-through and it hasn’t stopped assaults on agents. Last month then-Border Patrol Chief Ron Vitiello told a security conference that such assaults were up nearly 200 percent.
TRUMP, on letting China off the hook from his campaign promise to label it a currency manipulator: “As soon as I got elected, they stopped. … It’s not going down anymore, their currency.” — CBS interview, April 30
THE FACTS: Wrong on both counts. China stopped artificially devaluing the yuan in mid-2014, a year before Trump began his presidential run, not because it buckled to his threatened trade penalties. And the yuan has dropped in value since Trump took office, not gone up as he claimed.
A weak yuan helps Chinese exports because it makes them cheaper to buy. It disadvantages goods from the U.S. and other countries because they are more expensive to get in China.
Until 2005, China pegged the yuan to the dollar at a specific level. When it loosened the peg, the yuan began to rise steadily against the dollar. Worried that a strong currency would hurt their exporters, Chinese officials bought dollars to prevent the yuan from rising even faster.
The value of the yuan peaked in early 2014, as the Chinese economy slowed after years of torrid growth. The yuan then began to fall relative to the dollar, but not because Chinese officials were once again intervening to push it down. China was actually doing the opposite: selling dollars and buying yuan to prevent its currency from going into a free fall.
TRUMP: “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!” — tweet Tuesday
THE FACTS: That’s one way to look at it. Comey has a different view of why the FBI did not charge Clinton for her email practices: “There was not a prosecutable case there.”
Trump’s assertion also discounts the harm done to Clinton’s campaign by Comey’s pre-election disclosure that she was under investigation. Whether that disclosure essentially sank her presidential bid, as she and her allies suggest, or was irrelevant in her defeat, it is difficult to label that development a “free pass.”
A criminal charge while she was running for president surely would have been a heavier weight on her campaign, but Comey asserts the FBI’s “competent, honest and independent investigation,” while finding fault with her email practices, did not provide the grounds to charge her.
Some Democrats say it’s Trump who got a free pass from the FBI chief because he did not disclose during the campaign that Trump associates were under investigation for possible collusion with Russia. Comey told lawmakers Wednesday that he felt compelled to make his extraordinary statement on the continuing Clinton investigation in October because he had testified to Congress earlier that the probe was complete.
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